Tortilla, or Spanish omelette, is a staple in any decent tapas bar. The egg and potato mix flavoured with the sweet onions is one of my favourite foods. As so often, the simple things are best. There is a little bit of work involved but effort is worth it and the omelette can be kept for several days in the fridge, if you can resist the temptation to scoff it all in one sitting. Practically every Spaniard will have an opinion on how to make the perfect tortilla. Opinon is split on the role of the onions. Some use only the onion-flavoured oil: others incorporate the onions in the omelette. I fall into the latter camp. The Spanish say floury potatoes are best but I can only assume they have something very different in mind when they say floury than we Irish do. I find any potato that would boil on the dry side suitable and most often use a variety such as Exquisa, which are also small. The amount of potato might seem excessive, but as long as they fit in the pan that’s OK: the egg really serves to bind everthing together.
Makes: 6 tapas portions
Cooking: 20mins + 10mins + 10mins
|Good olive oil
Sunflower oil for deep frying
Half the peeled onions lengthways and then slice quite thinly and evenly. Put the olive oil to heat over a medium ring. When the oil is hot, add the onions and cook until golden, stirring every now and then. Don’t let them burn. When ready separate the onions from the oil using a sieve and reserve the oil. Next on to the potatoes. Depending on your potatoes you may need to peel them. Then cut into small pieces about the size of the end of your thumb and about 5mm thick. Deep fry the potato pieces at a medium temperature (about 140ºC), lifting them out just as they start to turn golden along the edges. Don’t turn them into French fries! Remove the excess oil with some kitchen paper.
We’re now ready to make the tortilla. The amounts in this recipe are intended for a 20cm frying pan, which should be heavy-based and well seasoned or non-stick. If you use a 25cm pan you’ll need to add 50% to all the ingredients. You have to get the pan quite hot to start and then reduce the heat. This can be tricky if you have an electric hob, so it’s probably easiest to use two rings, one hot, one low to medium. The tortilla also needs to be turned during cooking and you will need a flat plate comfortably bigger than pan for this. It pays to be organised for this dish.
Crack the eggs into a clean bowl. Add the potatoes and onions, if using, along with salt and pepper. Mix well using a fork. Place the pan on the hotter ring and add enough of the reserved olive oil to coat the pan. When the pan is hot, mix the eggs again with the fork and tip into the pan. Move the pan to the low ring. After 3 or 4 minutes the underside should be cooked nicely. Take a peek and it should be golden. The top will still be a little runny. The tortilla is now ready to be turned. This is the only tricky part of the dish. Keep your strong hand for the pan. Place the plate upside down on the pan, with the rim of the plate near where the handle joins the pan. Hold the pan with your strong hand and press gently but firmly on the plate. Lift the pan up from the stove. Now, in one quick movement turn the assembly upside down and lift away the pan. The tortilla should now be sitting on the plate along with a little uncooked egg mixture.
Wipe out the pan and return to the hotter ring, adding enough oil to coat. When hot, slide the tortilla from the plate back into the pan, letting the uncooked egg in first. Move the pan to the low ring and let the tortilla finish cooking. Wipe the dinner plate clean and turn out the finished tortilla as before. Tortilla tastes best when eaten at room temperature.